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Learning and generalizing from natural pedagogy

Dr. Marian Chen

Tuesday, April 30, 2013, 01:00pm - 02:00pm

Boston University, Department of Psychology

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The theory of natural pedagogy has been proposed to explain
the rapid transmission of cognitively opaque knowledge in humans
(Csibra and Gergely, 2012). Under this framework, infants selectively
attend to ostensive-referential cues that alert them to opportunities
for learning about the world around them. When learning from
knowledgeable conspecifics, infants demonstrate a genericity bias -
that is, they expect to be taught information that is kind-relevant
and enduring. Further, they expect the information they learn to
generalize to situations outside the learning context. I will present
evidence from research with 9- and 14-month-old infants to support
both predictions. First, I will show that 9-month-old infants
selectively attend to the kind-relevant features of objects when
presented in a communicative context (while ignoring information that
is normally spontaneously encoded, such as numerosity). Second, I will
show that 14-month-old infants readily generalize an unusual action
(touching a light with the head) to two different novel contexts.
Further, infants' behavior suggest that they separately encode the
action's goal and the manner in which it is achieved, and that their
decision to faithfully imitate these components may be modulated by
cultural factors.

Dr. Marian Chen